Blue Hill Observatory Scientist Ventures Out no Matter What the Weather

By Zande Razzaq
The Patriot Ledger
“It’s exciting to see the bad weather,” said Cecilia Borries-Strigle, the Chief Weather Observer at the historic Blue Hill Weather Observatory in Milton.
Most people on the South Shore stayed indoors during Tuesday’s nor’easter, but Cecilia Borries-Strigle put on her boots , buttoned up her coat and ventured outside-multiple times.
Cecilia Borries-Strigle, Chief Weather Observer at the Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center in Milton, climbs a steep staircase to the observatory’s roof to record weather data three times a day- at 7 a.m., 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. She notes the temperature and barometric pressure, plus things like the visibility and clouds. She also measures the snowfall using a long metal ruler. Borries-Strigle predicted that the snowfall record for the date- 6.7 inches, set in 1958 would be broken.
“It’s exciting to see the bad weather,” she said, “but, there is always anxiety. I have my overnight bags packed, just in case.”
The 132-year old Observatory, atop Great Blue Hill, is the oldest continuously operating weather station in the U. S. Founded by Abbott Lawrence Rotch, it began operating in 1885.
Four or five times a week, Borries-Strigle gets to the Observatory by driving up a winding access road that isn’t open to the public. The Observatory is 635 feet above sea level, making it the highest point within 10 miles of the Atlantic coast south of central Maine.
When she does her weather monitoring, Borries-Strigle uses some of the same equipment that was used in the 1880s, including a mercury barometer that Rotch bought in London. Borries-Strigle said the barometer is so accurate that “It’s spot-on” when it goes to the Smithsonian Institution to be re-calibrated. Using the same equipment over so many years keeps the data consistent.
After earning her master’s degree in atmospheric science from the University of Alaska, Borries-Strigle moved to Massachusetts with her husband, Daniel. She volunteered at the Observatory before being hired as an Observer in April, 2016. She said such jobs are rare and don’t open up often. “Not a lot of scientists are able to go out and collect their own data, unless you’re still in academics. There’s value in tracking the changes in weather” she said. The observers at Blue Hill noticed several changes, like shorter winter and lower wind speed.” We wouldn’t know that, and we wouldn’t know to investigate why that was happening, if we didn’t do this work.”
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